Stellenbosh Update #3 (Tuesday, Feb 12)

Things I forgot to mention about Monday: saw some Spring Bucks, some SA sheep, and a number of unusual birds (can’t identify them yet).

Just before I arrived the exchange rate for dollars/rands changed. It had been stable for 2 years, but it went up last week about 10% in my favor. So my money goes a little bit further. Somethings are less… food is pretty reasonable. Books, postcards, postage are more. Fuel for vehicles is (of course) more expensive, even than the “outrageous” rates we’ve been experiencing in the US.

The guesthouse I am staying in has a German name which means “On the River.” But the waterway across the street isn’t really enough water to call a river. The German folks who have stayed here have told Ms. de la Bat that it is really a brook. But she says that she kept the name anyway because it sounds better than “On the Brook.”

Little facts to know and tell: Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa. South; South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world (especially for its size); there are penguins in South Africa. There is a MacDonalds across the street from the Dept of Ancient Studies (yuck). There is a Vineyard church down the street from the office I am working in. South Africa is still considered a third world country (and the slums and street children are evidence of that). Still, it is a crazy mix of wealth and poverty.

I finally did get my ATM card back. A couple of trips to the bank waiting for it. Glad I had my passport with me. One interesting thing about the banks and foreign exchange offices. There are always guards outside, and they electronically open the door (it has a little red and green light). As you pass through, they have a metal detector that they scn you with. Then you are in between two glass doors. The second door also has red and green lights. You have to wait until the light is changed to green to enter.I guess they can keep someone in between the doors if they scan something objectionable. I still have to try to sort out my ATM card though. Apparently it is now blocked. And after all the notifications to my bank before I left!

Took a stroll through the US (Universiteit van Stellenbosch, not the United States) botanical gardens which are just one block from my guesthouse. They are small, but beautiful. I think I will go eat breakfast there one morning. Maybe because it is winter back home the aromas are even more enticing. It is quite hot out now, so walking in the shade of the gardens was delightful.

Word of the day: Vol (which means “full” as in the parking lot is full). Seems that WTS is not the only one with a parking problem!

Spent a very productive time meeting with Christo today. He gave me 4 books to read. We spent time narrowing down (read “hacked down to a stub”) my focus. We talked about digital tools, Libronix, looked through the tests he gives (all open book), and asked me to rework my research schedule so we can talk about it on Friday. I received keys to the department offices, the department library (where I am working), and Christo’s office. Friday night I am invited to his family’s home for braai (grilling). He and his wife are hoping to take me to Capetown on Sunday after church (which is actually quite early here).

I spent a little time shopping around today. I saw some African wild silk shops. They have some wild silk and some cultivated silk. There are coops of women that spin, weave, and sew the silk into various items.

There are also leather shops with skins of zebras and other exotic animals. Hmm. Not sure you can even bring them back to the US.

Went to the grocery store today for some more staples. Trying a different variety of yogurt. Stayed away from the mayo… it all has a greenish tinge to it.

Today the student center was filled with organizations trying to promote their groups to students. There were several Christian groups… most were keen to separate themselves from “Christianity” and instead talk more about “Christ.” There was also a US (remember, that’s Universiteit van Stellenbosch) chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Had a lovely opportunity this afternoon. A woman (from Johannesburg) is staying in the same guesthouse and I asked her about suggestions for what to do on Saturday and she invited me out to get something to drink so we could talk. She took me to a vineyard and drove me around the area. It was lovely. She had so many things to tell me about South Africa. Her husband is a CEO for a multi-national company (and he is currently traveling out of the country). She gave such an interesting perspective to the history of apartheid and how things have developed over the past 15 years.